Undoubtedly, adoptions play an important part in family law. Adoptions, however, can have important effects in estate planning as well. Under Illinois law, anyone may be adopted, including adults, as long as they have resided in the same residence as the adopting parent for at least two years. This was originally intended as a tool to facilitate adoption in instances of stepparent/stepchild relationships, but estate-planning attorneys have used adult adoptions to shield assets.
Take John Goodman, for example. The polo tycoon was facing criminal and civil lawsuits for causing the death of 23-year old Scot Wilson. The lawsuits stated that John Goodman was driving drunk when he crashed into Wilson's car, sending him into a canal. Wilson was strapped to his seat and drowned while John Goodman fled without calling for help. There was testimony that Goodman was drinking heavily prior to the accident.
Goodman faced the real possibility of his assets going to pay for judgments against him and to pay the attorney fees (which he still has not paid). In a testament to his true character, Goodman tried to take his children’s trust money by adopting his 42-year old girlfriend. Some background: In 1999, Goodman and his ex-wife established a trust for their two children, which was worth several hundred million dollars. The children, however, could not gain control of the trust until they turned 35, but Ms. Goodman’s girlfriend (sorry, daughter) would become immediately entitled to the money as she was older than 35.
Goodman tried to use a tool designed to build families, to take his children’s money. A clever legal theory which was ultimately unsuccessful. The lower court judge approved the adoption, but an appeals court sided with the children in holding that the adoption was a sham and invalid.
Family law can be complicated, and adoption laws can have long-term effects. If you have questions, consult an Illinois family law attorney today.